February is as close to winter as we get in Florida, and when the temperatures dip, the divas love a simmering pot of stew. This version uses seasonal fish with just enough cream to make a rich, thin broth for sipping and dipping a crusty hunk of bread.
We used grouper, shrimp and clams, but you could add whatever seafood suits your fancy — blue crab, oysters and scallops all would be delicious. Add a bright green salad and a crusty loaf of bread for a satisfying meal that’s a true taste of the Sunshine State.
Blushing Florida Fish Stew
Serves 4 to 6
1 teaspoon butter
1 teaspoon olive oil
4 ounces pancetta, cut in small cubes
1 medium sweet onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1/2-inch dice
4 cups seafood stock
Coarse salt, freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 pound grouper, cut in generous bite-size pieces
1/2 pound shrimp, cleaned and deveined, cut into generous bite-size pieces
12 clams in shell, scrubbed
1 cup cream
Fresh parsley, for garnish
Heat butter and oil in a large pot and add pancetta and cook until crispy. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel; set aside.
Add onion and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in paprika, thyme and potatoes. Add stock and bring to a boil, simmering until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper.
Add grouper and cook 5 minutes. Add clams and cook until open. Add shrimp and cook another 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in cream. Garnish with pancetta and parsley.
Diva confession: Clams should smell like the sea, and the shells should be free of cracks. Store live clams in a container with the lid open slightly because they need circulations to breathe, and discard any clams that don’t open when tapped slightly.